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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Explained: Why another Charlie Hebdo cartoon is fanning tensions between Turkey, France

Turkey's Erdogan has called for a boycott of French goods and questioned Emmanuel Macron's sanity, after the latter declared that "Islam is a religion that is in crisis today all over the world".  

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 6, 2020 12:50:08 pm
Charlie hebdo cartoon on Erdogan, Turkey France relations, Macron Charlie Hebdo, Macron Islam comments, Erdogan on France, Indian ExpressTurkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin, Germany in January 2020. (AP Photo: Michael Sohn)

The recent edition of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which featured a controversial caricature of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has added fuel to the raging tensions between France and Turkey.

Soon after the cartoon was published, Erdogan’s office vowed to take “legal and diplomatic actions” against the French magazine. While the Turkish President said he had not yet seen the “disgusting” cartoon, he condemned the magazine for what he called “a grave insult to my Prophet”.

The rift between the two NATO allies has widened this month, with Erdogan calling for a boycott of French goods and questioning French President Emmanuel Macron’s sanity after the latter declared “Islam is a religion that is in crisis today all over the world”.

Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons: Bloody history

The Erdogan cartoon on the cover of the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo also features a speech bubble above the character’s head that reads, “Ooh, the prophet!”

Erdogan dismissed the cartoon as a “disgusting attack”. “I don’t need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale,” he said. “My sadness and anger is not because of this disgusting attack against me, but because the very same media is the source of impudence against our beloved Prophet whom we hold so dear.”

Charlie Hebdo has previously triggered widespread anger throughout the Muslim word by publishing and later re-publishing a series of controversial caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The cartoons provoked a deadly terror attack at the magazine’s offices in Paris in 2015, which left a deep scar in France and sparked global debates on free speech, blasphemy and religion.

Erdogan’s spokesperson said the recent cartoons were the latest example of French President Macron’s “anti-Muslim” agenda. The state prosecutor’s office opened an inquiry into the magazine’s leadership. According to Turkish law, insulting the president can result in a prison sentence.

Also in Explained | France, Emmanuel Macron and Islam

Charlie hebdo cartoon on Erdogan, Turkey France relations, Macron Charlie Hebdo, Macron Islam comments, Erdogan on France, Indian Express A photograph of Macron, stamped with a shoe mark, during a protest in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo: Emrah Gurel)

Why was the caricature published in the first place?

The cartoon was published days after Erdogan called for a boycott of French products, in the wake of France announcing a tougher stance on “radical” Islam.

The latest diplomatic spat follows the beheading of a 47-year-old schoolteacher named Samuel Paty in Paris last week, days after he had shown the controversial caricatures of Prophet Mohammed to his students during a lesson about freedom of speech.

Macron responded to the attack, carried out by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, by launching a campaign that aimed to build a French version of Islam.

During his eulogy at Paty’s funeral, Macron said that the country could never give up its liberties or its cartoons, and will continue to fight for freedom. “We will continue, professor. We will defend the freedom that you taught so well and we will promote secularism, we will not renounce caricatures, drawings, even if others retreat,” he said.

Even before Paty was killed, Macron defended the right to caricature the Prophet Mohammed. In September, he described Islam as a religion “in crisis” and announced that he would present a bill to strengthen a law that separates church and state in France.

Macron’s comments sparked widespread outrage in many Islamic countries, with Turkey and Pakistan taking the lead in slamming the French President for encouraging Islamophobia. The hashtags #BoycottFrenchProducts, #Islam and #NeverTheProphet in Arabic began trending on social media as support poured in from across the Muslim world. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

How did Erdogan react to Macron’s comments?

The leaders of France and Turkey have sparred on a number of issues in recent years, including Libya, the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

After Macron announced that he planned to reform Islam to make it more compatible with France’s republican values, Erdogan declared his French counterpart needed “mental treatment”.

“What is Macron’s problem with Islam? What is his problem with Muslims?” he said. “Macron needs some sort of mental treatment. What else is there to say about a head of state who doesn’t believe in the freedom of religion and behaves this way against the millions of people of different faiths living in his own country?”

France responded to Erdogan’s comments by recalling its ambassador to Turkey for consultations. The French government condemned the Turkish President’s “excess and rudeness” and said, “We are not accepting insults”.

This week, Erdogan joined growing calls for a boycott on French products. “European politicians should say ‘stop’ to the hate campaign led by French President Macron,” he said.

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